There was some question as to whether the Marvel Legends line would even continue -- and fans certainly wanted it to. But looking at the big picture, one had to realize that Hasbro would likely concentrate on the big players in the Marvel Universe -- Spider-Man, the X-Men, and anybody with a forthcoming movie. Would they want to do a line which had pretty well done most of those characters and was increasingly known for making figures of notable, but still secondary and even tertiary characters in the Marvel Universe?
Fortunately, the answer was ultimately, "Yes". Marvel Legends would continue. Even better, Hasbro would employ many of the same personnel that Toy Biz had to design and sculpt the figures. Hopefully, the only major change in the figures would be the manufacturing company listed on the figure itself.
Among the first assortment of Hasbro Marvel Legends figures to be offered, the one that most appealed to me was Hercules.
So I got Hercules. There have been some changes. The package design is different, of course, and I have to say that I'm not terribly fond of the new logo. The concept of including a comic book with the figure has been dropped. This surprises me somewhat, given that Hasbro has just as much of a history of including comic books with some of their products as Toy Biz. They did it with G.I. Joe for a fair run, and have recently started doing it with Star Wars. The lack of a comic book has upset some Marvel Legends fans, as has the increased price tag. Dropping the comic and raising the price may not be the best combined move, but in my case, I'm not a Marvel Legends completist, anyway.
The only time I felt obliged to get a complete assortment of Marvel Legends figures -- was when the "Build-A-Figure" was Galactus. HIM I wanted! But there haven't been any real "Build-A-Figures" since then that I've felt I've had to have, so I buy whichever figures I want in a given assortment, and I tend to auction the Build-A-Figure sections.
In this assortment, the "Build-A-Figure" is Annihilus, a nasty, winged, insect-like villain from a mysterious realm called the Negative Zone that has given a fair amount of trouble mostly to the Fantastic Four over the years. He's been prominently featured in the recent space-spanning mini-series entitled "Annihilation". His left wing comes with Hercules.
Much like Thor, Marvel Comics didn't invent Hercules so much as bring him onto the Marvel Universe by way of ancient mythology. As Thor represented the ancient Norse mythology, Hercules comes from ancient Greek/Roman mythology.
I took a mythology class in high school. It was generally regarded as an easy credit. The teacher, a rather eccentric sort, said that the pantheon of gods shared by the Greeks and the Romans were entirely Greek in origin, and the Romans co-opted them and renamed a lot of them. And indeed, you find a lot of the same sort of characters in both, but with different names. Zeus, the head of them all, is Jupiter in the other. The god of the oceans Poseidon becomes Neptune. Ares and Mars are essentially the same individual. And technically, Hercules' original name is Heracles. Even the official Marvel Universe entry lmakes this distinction.
But it's also fair to say that in modern times, Hercules is the better- known name. Dating all the way back to movies starring a certain Steve Reeves, the name has been Hercules. Throw in the Marvel Comics character, as well as the Disney movie and the live-action syndicated TV series starring Kevin Sorbo from some years ago, and nobody is that likely to recognize the name "Heracles". And somehow, the name "Hercules" sounds more impressive, anyway.
Hercules first appeared in the Marvel Universe way, waaaaayyy back in THOR ANNUAL #1. Since then, he's been a prominent participant in the Marvel Universe, even though he's never been as prominent as Thor. He's been a member of the Avengers off and on, and was even a member of the short-lived Champions team, a group of super-heroes based out of Los Angeles that featured the rather oddball combination of Hercules, Black Widow, Angel, Iceman, Ghost Rider, and Darkstar.
Hercules most prominent moment, on his own, anyway, was likely a pair of four-issue mini-series which featured work by Bob Layton, then best known for his art skills on Iron Man. In these comics, Earth was in its 23rd century, and the need for heroes on Earth was minimal. Hercules returned to Olumpus, but found it astonishingly dull. After causing a bit of chaos on a day declared to be one for quiet meditation by Zeus, the big guy banished Hercules from Olympus, declaring that he could not return to Earth, either, but had to travel out into the depths of space and maybe learn a little humility along the way.
Over the course of his adventures, Hercules would meet up with the Rigellians, who would give him a Recorder robot that more or less became Herc's sidekick. He'd rescue an elderly Skrull (named Skyppi) from an angry mob, and even attempt to make Galactus drunk in order to have Galactus spare a particular planet. That these comics were somewhat comedic in nature is obvious, but for Hercules, it worked.
Hercules has never been as serious a hero as Thor. Hercules is big, strong, powerful, and he knows it. He lives large because he knows he can. He has had trouble with alcohol at times. He loves a good fight more than almost anything. He's got a bit of a temper, but he's no Wolverine. He is, at his core, a hero, who always tries to do the right thing, and generally succeeds, although sometimes his own natural exuberance can cause some trouble.
He has his serious side. During a eulogy for the presumed-deceased Captain America, Hercules commented respectfully, "On Olympus, we measure wisdom against Athena, speed against Hermes, power against Zeus. But we measure courage... against Captain America."
According to the entry on him at Marvel: Hercules' principal power is his superhuman strength. Hercules' strength is well in excess of the "Class 100" Level (able to lift/press in excess of 100 tons), making him, one of the strongest beings in the Marvel universe. Hercules has highly developed leg muscles, although they do not match those of the Hulk. Hercules can make a standing high jump of at least 100 feet in Earth's gravity.
Hercules is also an Olympian thereby being an immortal, and as true immortals, the Olympian gods do not age and are not susceptible to disease. Although they can be wounded in battle, they cannot die by any conventional means, and have a rapid healing rate. Hercules has a greater resistance to physical injury than any other Olympian god except for Zeus, and possibly Neptune and Pluto. Hercules is virtually tireless. His supernaturally enhanced musculature produces no fatigue poisons. He can even survive unprotected in the vacuum of space for a brief period of time. Only an injury of such magnitude that it incinerated him or dispersed a major portion of his bodily molecules could kill Hercules. In at least some such cases, Zeus or one of the other gods might still be able to resurrect him. As Olympus's greatest hero, Hercules is highly expert in traditional means of hand-to-hand combat, as well as in wrestling. Hercules is also very highly skilled in ancient Greek athletic feats such as the discus and hammer throws.
The Marvel Legends Hercules action figure is, I have to say, a superb piece of work. Hercules has had a fair number of wardrobe changes, especially in recent years, before returning to his more traditional appearance, which thankfully is also the basis for this figure. It's interesting to compare the look of Hercules to Thor. Thor tends to look rather regal. The long hair, the silver winged helmet, and the long flowing cape tend to speak of a certain nobility.
Hercules, on the other hand, looks like a professional wrestler. His hair is short and curly, he has a mustache and beard, he has no cape, and he's dressed in a fairly simple tunic cloth around his waist, a shoulder strap, multiple leg-straps, and leather-looking shoes. He has a gold headband with flaps covering his ears, and gold wristbands. The figure also does a nice job of showcasing Hercules' jovial personality. The face was sculpted with a big grin, not at all out of place for the character.
Hercules is a big guy, and to be honest, I was a little concerned about compatibility of scale with these new Marvel Legends. I probably shouldn't've been worried. Hercules comes in at slightly over 7 inches in height. Compared to two other recent powerhouses in the Marvel Legends line made by Toy Biz, Luke Cage and the Wal-Mart exclusive Thor, Hercules is slightly taller than Luke, and on a par with Thor, which is pretty much as is should be. If anything, Hercules looks a little beefier than Thor, which also isn't inappropriate. Hercules is a more physical combatant than Thor tends to be at times.
In other words, scale-wise, Hercules fits in just fine.
Articulation has always been the hallmark of the Marvel Legends line, and here, too, Hercules works out very well. This is doubtless one area where having the same designers that Toy Biz used comes into play. Hercules has the same range of motion as any previous Marvel Legends figure, and is constructed pretty much along the same lines (allowing for the variance that has existed even within the Marvel Legends line). He's really superbly well made.
The attention to detail is excellent. If Hercules comes up a little short in one area, it's the paint applications. Now, in fairness, I've railed against the ugly practice of hand-painted details before. And also in fairness, Toy Biz wasn't above using it on occasion themselves.
Now I'll be reasonable here. There's a lot of areas where it's hard to tell, and I admit I'm picky. And I have to give some credit to the personnel that got stuck with painting all of those leg straps, because that's not something I'd wish on the most highly trained artist. They did a darn good job under the circumstances.
However, there are areas where hand-painted detailing is going to be more obvious than others. And it's really going to show up when you're using metallic paints, and as a result, I can even see the brush strokes on Hercules' gold-colored headband. The aim isn't bad. In fact whoever did this did a superb job of staying within the area that needed to be painted. But it's still hand-painted, and inevitably that's going to look a bit sloppy, and I really wish this practice would end.
Hercules comes with a small mace-like club, and fortunately, Marvel had an explanation for this item: Hercules' current weapon is his Golden Mace, which is not actually made of gold but was forged by the god Hephaestus from enchanted adamantine. The Mace is therefore virtually indestructible, and has survived direct blows from Thor's hammer.
There's not much of anything that can say that. There's a holder on Hercules' belt into which the Golden Mace can fit.
On the whole, I have to say I am very pleased with this figure. The articulation is impressive, and generally good and tight. The detail is excellent, and the likeness to the character as he appears in the comics is superb.
If Hasbro can stay on this track with Marvel Legends, I think the line
has an excellent future ahead of it, and I look forward to seeing what
Hasbro does with it. Meanwhile, HERCULES definitely has my enthusiastic